My husband asked me to write down the beef barley soup I concocted yesterday, since he said it was "restaurant quality," so here goes (read it all the way through before preparing):
Brown 1lb chunks of stew meat in bacon fat, stir in chopped onion, celery, and carrots, about a cup of each.
After a few minutes, add 4 cups beef stock and 4 cups chicken stock, a half pound more of stew meat (not browned), 2 bay leaves, 1 T Worcestershire sauce, 1 T tamari (or soy sauce), 1 T Trader Joe's umami paste (optional - can use tomato paste), 1/2 t seasoning salt, 1/2 t garlic salt, 1 t chicken bouillon concentrate (because the cartons of stock from Trader Joe's aren't as flavorful, though healthier), and top with a cup of sliced mushrooms.
I did all this in my instant pot. Turn it to the slow cook setting on normal for two hours. Turn it up to high for another hour. Add Trader Joe's quick cooking barley for the last 20 minutes.
When I got out the red onions at at 1pm to make egg salad (my 3rd attempt), I noticed they were going moldy...so I consulted the slow cooker French onion soup recipe I had pinned to Pinterest, sliced the onions (4) and put them in the crockpot with 1/4 cup butter, 4 cups beef broth, and a splash of worcestershire sauce. Then we had to leave for piano lessons, so I (yet again) didn't have time to make the egg salad (I need the colored eggshells for a mosaic project - also from Pinterest - I'm leading in our co-op art class next week. I also need to use up the lox from Costco whose expiration date was last week).
When we got back home, I thought my husband must have made something really savory for lunch (he had come home right when we were leaving) until I remembered I was cooking soup. About four o'clock it occurred to me to beef it up - literally - with that leftover uncooked slab of pot roast I had saved in the freezer. So I defrosted the meat in the microwave, put it in the soup, and turned it up to high. At 6:15, I pulled the meat out, cut it into smaller pieces, and put it back in. I tasted the broth and decided it needed more flavor, so I added a half cup of red wine and another cup of beef broth, as well as more worcestershire and a good shake of granulated garlic (it's my go-to ingredient). I turned it back down to low.
No gruyere in the house (never is) nor any oven safe soup bowls (been meaning to get some for over a decade), so I got the sliced sourdough out of the freezer, defrosted four large slices in the microwave, meanwhile grated sharp white cheddar and mozzarella (in the form of multiple string cheese sticks) into a gallon ziploc bag (yet another Pinterest find, but I think it may have originated with Cooks Illustrated - it all blurs together after the last million websites or so). I lined a cookie sheet with foil, put the bread (each slice cut in half) on it, and sprinkled the cheese evenly on all the pieces. I stuck it in the broiler and then grated a bunch more cheese which I put at the bottom of each soup bowl. When the cheese toast was done, I ladled the soup into the bowls, floated a toast in each bowl, and topped with the rest of the grated cheese.
With freshly ground pepper, a glass of the aforementioned wine (the soup gave me an excuse to open the bottle), and the oohs and ahs of the whole family (at least in the beginning until my picky ten year-old began to complain of soggy bread), including raves from my husband who deemed it restaurant quality (he used to work in some posh ones), I sat down to a very enjoyable dinner I hadn't expected to make. And that is why I will never be someone who menu plans ;)